Getting a Pulse on Intelligent Lead Management: Interview with Nick Hedges, CEO & President of Velocify
The sales software category is red hot right now as companies try to apply best practices and technology to improve prospecting effectiveness and efficiency. The category has attracted a lot of investment capital and competition is intensifying. I caught up with Nick Hedges, President and CEO of Velocify® at the Dreamforce conference to learn more about their offerings and approach to the market.
Velocify is a provider of cloud-based sales software, designed for high velocity sales environments. It has two core products – Velocify Pulse for companies using Salesforce.com and LeadManager for those that do not use Salesforce. Its primary focus is on accelerating lead response, optimizing sales practice to boost conversion, and prioritizing sales activities. Velocify is reviewed on TrustRadius by users here
What’s the founding story of Velocify and how did you get to this point?
The business has changed quite a lot over time. We got our start in the financial services industry. About 11 years ago, many financial services companies, particularly in the mortgage industry, were buying a lot of leads. It was an exploding vertical, growing really fast. Companies were growing really quickly but not building marketing capabilities. They had been buying leads from Lending Tree, for example, and spending a lot of money, and they were coming to the realization that they couldn’t manage the volume of opportunities that they were buying very well. They were receiving the leads via email or Excel spreadsheet, or they were using a very rudimentary CRM like Act. The founders of Velocify saw an opportunity to get a lot more organized with that process by thinking about what a salesperson actually did with these valuable leads. So that’s where we got our start.
For the first six or seven years of the company, we focused in on B2C. We’re still very successful today in B2C, but about four years ago we expanded into B2B. We now have a very deep B2B capability as well. Over the years we’ve seen that B2C was really quite far ahead, in terms of having big inside sales teams that work very rapidly through opportunities to get to the nuggets. B2B has only caught up in the past three to four years. Now B2B companies are starting to put inside sales teams in place, and they’re starting to become effective around working at speed, but with control.
What are your product offerings?
We have two core offerings. We have Velocify Pulse™, which is exclusively for customers who use Salesforce. It sits on top of Salesforce Sales Cloud; the UI is native. There are some elements we have to take outside of the CRM, purely because Salesforce isn’t architected to run at the speed that you need for an effective inside sales process. So there are some things that we do within our core engine, outside Salesforce. But from a UI perspective it’s completely integrated, and most of the data continues to reside within Salesforce.
We also have a standalone product, for customers who either use a home-grown CRM or are not using Salesforce. Actually, the majority of our customers today are on this product. We call it Velocify LeadManager™, and it helps anyone who is generating leads manage that process from beginning to end. The biggest difference between Velocify Pulse and Velocify LeadManager is that here we are much more focused on the entire lead process, whereas on Velocify Pulse, there will most often be a handoff post-qualification, where Salesforce will take over the sales process.
One aspect of our product that breaks out as well is our sophisticated, sales dialer capability called Veloicfy Dial-IQ™. It sits on top of either Velocify LeadManager, or Velocify Pulse.
Do you find people buying you for one discrete solution, such as the sales dialer, or do people come to you because of the suite approach?
The latter. We don’t advertise ourselves as a sales dialer, even though we have a better sales dialer than most standalone solutions. If a company is just looking for a sales dialer, they may be a little bit too early to work with us. I see a three-stage process with buyers:
1. They want to get on a good CRM, so that they can get organized. That’s a pretty early stage thing for most people (hopefully).
2. Then they realize that they can generate a lot of leads—or at least they aspire to generate a lot of leads—and they want to process them quickly. This is the point at which companies usually put a sales dialer in place, to just very rapidly run through a list. We don’t play there, because that’s not our value proposition. Yes we can run through a list quickly with Velocify, but that’s not really where we stand out.
3. When the company puts a sales dialer in place, quite quickly they come to the realization that speed is not enough. You can have people doing things very quickly, but making a mess very quickly as well. So we come in with a solution. We can show you how to send emails and make phone calls quickly, but we can also make sure that every single call and email is made at the perfect time and to the right person. With Velocify, sales people are always doing the right thing.
How do you ensure the right thing happens at the right time?
We have something called SalesFlow™, and something called PriorityView™. SalesFlow recognizes that the typical sales person isn’t very good at dispositioning opportunities, leads, and accounts across time. Basically, the person will take some action, get a response, and then decide where the lead lies in the sales funnel based on that. The problem is, everyone does that slightly differently. SalesFlow allows the team to map all of the statuses or stages in the sales process and align them with possible outcomes that could happen at that stage. So from a sales person’s perspective, they have a call and they say what happened (aka “Voicemail”—you can have N number of different options). Just by asking what happened we’re able to normalize the sales stages so that things move through those stages in a very predictable manner. That’s really important because at each stage, different follow-up actions, like emails and content, can be triggered. This creates a very consistent sales process that’s built around a real understanding of the optimal sales process for a particular context.
Sometimes when I want to simplify it I say, “What you want your whole sales team to do is whatever your best sales person does, because they’re probably following—even though they don’t know it—a pretty good process.” First of all, we help teams figure out what that process looks like. Then teams put SalesFlow in place so that everyone’s following the same process.
The other thing we do, from a sales person’s perspective, is set up a PriorityView. They know at any point in time which lead/contact/account/opportunity is most likely to be moved forward if they do something with it right now. It’s a prioritized list, with intelligent rules that sit underneath prioritizing and reprioritizing who you should be calling.
Does prioritization happen at the account level or the contact level?
It’s at every and any object level you want—contact, account, lead, or opportunity. We can prioritize all of those, or one or two or three, depending on what you deal with as a sales person. PriorityView also tells the sales person what to do with each prioritized lead, so there is an element of coaching.
We used to keep all this great intelligence set up behind the scenes, sort of like predictive analytics. But sales people didn’t trust it. They would be listening, but they didn’t know why one lead was at the top of the list and something else wasn’t. So we started to give them the reasons—the logic of each thing being where it was, with a very simple rollover type capability. For example, when they rollover, we say the reason this is important is because it’s a brand new lead, it’s got a high lead score, and you haven’t caught it for 40 minutes. We also tell them they should leave them voicemail, and send this email. That’s super important for an inside sales team, because most companies we work with are trying to scale. They are bringing in some people who aren’t very experienced in sales, or who don’t know the processes that are intended for that organization. So our customers can put out new sales people, and on our system they immediately know what they’re supposed to be doing. They need a lot less ramping up time.
What is a typical sales team size where Velocify makes sense?
It makes most sense for a sales team that’s over ten people. Some of the more sophisticated things we do really shine when they are deployed at scale. Our most successful customers often have hundreds of installations. That’s not our exclusive focus, but features like PerforMatch™ work especially well for larger teams. PerforMatch looks at the capabilities of an entire team based on their performance, and differentially flows leads of the type that sales people are most successful with. So if I’m really good at working manufacturing industries in Illinois that have X amount of revenue per year, I’ll get more of those leads. That really only comes into its own at scale.
So you can handle the lead dispatching process, even if teams don’t use a straight geographical territory model?
Absolutely. We can load balance and persona match. That’s a big part of our system. We call it “Rewardification™.” A lot of companies are trying to motivate people with gamification and leaderboards, etc. Our take on it is that gamification is great, but how about giving someone something more than an electronic trophy?
So you give them the “Glengarry Glen Ross” leads, right?
That’s it, right. You give them more, better leads. Leads that they’re going to be more successful with. This approach is transformational.
Does this work with a two-tier sales model, or is it optimized around the one-tier model?
Both. What we’re seeing is, there’s a lot, an increasing amount of job specialization. People are creating Sales Development Rep (SDR) teams that are separate from their inside sales, and account executives that are separate from their field sales teams. And so our product is really well suited to the two-tier model. We have prospecting capabilities that help SDRs. We have what we call Velocify SalesCaddy™, which is a social prospecting tool that allows people to do account mapping, using LinkedIn and so on. But once an SDR has got a hot prospect—an opportunity, or at least a qualified lead—they need to do something with it in the two-tier model. They need to get it to someone in the field, or someone on the account team that’s capable of taking it all the way. And so what our system does is it will allow you to set appointments. That’s what most sales executive acceleration tools do. Setting an appointment is the worst thing that you can do at that stage. You never want to set the phone down on someone who’s interested in your product or service. You want to pass it live, a hot transfer as it were. So what our system will do is it will help you transfer, but not just to anyone. It will use our distribution logic to see who is the most qualified to work that lead, who’s available, who’s not on the phone, so that you can do a three-party conference call type system and pass that on to someone with a warm introduction.
What proportion of B2B companies even do that today? (I would imagine it’s very small.)
All of our customers, which is an increasing segment of the B2B market. But you can only really do it with our system.
Who are a few of the key companies who are using your platform now, and what sort of results are they seeing?
On the B2C side we have some really big companies, like Solar City, which has thousands of sales reps, and USAA, with multi-thousand seat installation. They use us in every division of the company, and I believe they’re one of Salesforce’s biggest customers as well.
On the B2B side I would say some of the more interesting companies are using it, like MINDBODY. They are a relatively recent public company, SaaS-based, in the fitness industry. MINDBODY provides software-as-a-service to yoga studios, gyms, and the like. When we installed Velocify Pulse for them, they had a big, pretty sophisticated inside sales team, but what they really wanted to do was optimize around performance. We’ve helped them do that. I met with a partner at their venture capital backer the other day, and he was telling me how there was this technology out there that had completely transformed MINDBODY sales results. I said, “Yes, that’s us.” He was like, “Oh, really? I’ve got to tell everyone. I didn’t even know that you were the people doing that.”
Where does Velocify fit in the broader Sales Acceleration category?
There are a number of companies who are talking about sales acceleration. I think it’s a vendor-driven category right now, rather than a customer-driven one, but hopefully that changes. The thing that differentiates us in the sales acceleration category is that we’re a universal platform. If you look at everyone else, they take a particular piece of sales acceleration. You really can’t do everything from prospecting all the way down to close with those products. People don’t want a lot of point solutions. They do want to be able to accomplish everything from beginning to end in one system. So we see ourselves as a universal platform, which sits on top of another platform, the company’s CRM.
Are the PriorityView recommendations based on internal rules or external data (per predictive analytics sales solutions)?
Internal rules. We are starting to look at external rules and the predictive route. But that’s another thing that differentiates us. Our take on it is that insight-driven optimization is more powerful than just predictive scoring. In other words, sales leaders typically want to take control of their sales process. They’ve got a pretty good idea of what they want to happen, from years of experience. They also have data they can look at that tells them what they should be doing; they don’t just want to abdicate that responsibility by putting in predictive analytics. They also want a system that they can really see and touch and feel, and put in rules. So that’s why we’ll never be 100% predictive in our capability, because pure predictive doesn’t give you enough insight about why you’re doing something, and you can’t necessarily control it. But we have quite a lot of customers who are using a predictive analytics score in concert with our more prescriptive capability, and getting phenomenal results.
How does the merger between Velocify and predictive analytics work?
Our system doesn’t work off of a score. We use a combination of rules to determine prioritization. So what we can do is build the predictive score into a lot of different places.
Most companies put predictive analytics in place, and then it’s just kind of for interest—“That lead’s a 98? Oh that’s cool”—but they haven’t got a way of doing something with the information. Our system allows teams to build it into the prescriptive, optimized workflow. So you can have a rule that is based on the score, but is also based on three other things, such as when you last called them, the result of the call, etc.
How does predictive data flow into your rules engine?
On our standalone Velocify LeadManager product, it’s an API feed. With Velocify Pulse it’s even easier, because the predictive data is already coming into Salesforce. In that case Salesforce is the platform and we just consume the information.
In the area of email optimization best practices, there’s a lot of emphasis today on standardization of templates, and which message to send when. How do you support that optimization of message, from a sales perspective?
We do this in our analytics suite. Customers can run reports that will show the open rate for each template, which we monitor. Based on that, sales managers can then promote those emails to be used in the workflow.
What I would say is, you need to be working at quite some scale for that to start to be statistically correct. I’ve seen people use the reports badly—like if an email has been opened four times and the average is two—where we don’t have a big enough data set for the results to be statistically useful. Plus, a lot of companies are using so many templates that the results get dispersed. A team really needs to stick to about 10-15 templates for our reports to help. But our approach can be really effective, if used correctly. We also do a lot of other things with email for quite a few companies.
Our solution is equivalent to the best out there, but there’s nothing truly unique about the way we do email. We allow people to send transactional emails, similar to a ToutApp or SalesLoft. We also allow them to send emails during the workflow that are automated, based on the lead stage and results of the last call. The email will look highly personalized, but actually it did not even required a sales person to do anything.
Is your measure of success velocity, or is it also conversion?
I tell people time and time again: yes, we’re called Velocify, but it’s not about velocity, it’s about outcome. It’s only a point of interest how many calls someone makes per day. There are a lot of companies out there who say, “We will help you make 120 calls a day.” That’s irrelevant. It’s the outcome of those calls that is important. Sure, we can get people up to a high number of calls, but with us it’s about the quality of what sales people are doing. We see very significant changes in conversion rate. If prospects come to us and say they’re only interested in getting sales people calling a lot, we send them elsewhere, in the direction of a dialer. Because that’s all they’ll get—a lot of calls.
One of our big financial services companies got a 360% increase in their conversion rate within the first seven months of using our system. One of our first post customers saw 150% improvement in their conversion within the first couple of months. We usually see a team’s conversion rate double within a year of being on our platform. That’s where we really focus.
Vinay is an entrepreneur passionate about tackling big problems. Vinay conceived TrustRadius after experiencing challenges when buying enterprise solutions at his last company. In 1999, Vinay founded Convio, the leading Software as a Services platform for nonprofits. In April 2010, Convio became a public company, and was acquired in May 2012 for $325 million. Prior to Convio, Vinay was a Director at Trilogy Software and a Consultant at Bain & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School where he graduated as a Baker Scholar, an MS Engineering Economic Systems from Stanford University, and a MA Engineering Information Sciences from Cambridge University with First Class Honors. When he’s not working, Vinay loves spending time with his family, playing squash and racing cars.